“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” – Marcus Garvey
“When life is good and we have no problems, we can almost let ourselves believe we have no need for God. But in my experience, sometimes the richest blessings come through pain and hard things.” – Anne Graham Lotz
There’s a high ideal in humanity that we should find purpose in our pain. It’s instinctual to ask why bad things happen to good people and difficult to understand why an all-loving God doesn’t come in and save us and others from horrible life circumstances. Maybe you’re struggling with a fresh wound, a broken heart, or a loss that you can’t make sense of. Do you feel as though your sorrows and struggles are unjust and seemingly endless? Is there really any hope of seeing a purpose for the pain or an outcome that actually benefits you in the long run? I think, with a fresh perspective, it’s possible to go through difficult times and be a stronger, wiser, and more compassionate person for it on the other side.
The idea of how a woman’s life history affects her purpose is very subjective. Sure, there are some concrete attitudes and mechanisms that can likely be explained by your past, but it’s never as neat and tidy as we want it to be. Who we have become or are becoming is a conglomerate of so many factors that no one event can get the credit. While I don’t know your story, I’m happy to share a bit of mine and how I believe it has shaped the woman I am today.
Like most people, my life has seen its fair share of highs and lows. Looking back, there are a number of events that define who I am today as well as my outlook on the future. The pivotal event that set it all in motion, though, was the death of my mother in 1975 when I was 10 years old. She was a 31-year-old victim of stomach/digestive system cancer who left behind a husband and three kids, ages 13, 11, and 10.
Her illness was very short; about four months from diagnosis to passing away. Everything changed after that. I mean everything. My dad’s grieving didn’t go well, and my brothers and I had to move in with family in another town since dad had to go right back to work and school had just gotten out for the summer. Even our little dog was hit by a car and killed. It seemed that nothing about my world was normal or right. Unfortunately, there really wasn’t the sensitivity to grief counseling there is today, so as kids we had to sort through it on our own, although we did have many loving family members around us as well as the prayers of many, many wonderful people.
Less than a year later, my dad’s job transferred us from Kentucky to Tennessee. New house, new school, new friends, new town. Dad was still sorting through his own grief, and pretty much let us kids make decisions for ourselves that we shouldn’t have been making, primarily when to go to school, or better put, how much we could stay home from school. We stayed home. A lot. We would make the excuse that we would clean the house if we stayed home. He was too lost in grief to let it worry him much.
Shortly after our move to Tennessee, dad began dating again and remarried. That marriage failed miserably after less than two months. Looking back, it almost seems like a blip on the radar, although I’m sure there was much more to it than that for the adults involved.
By the end of 1975, dad married again. He married a lady with three kids, all younger than me and all in need of a stable home life. Thanks to the kindness of a co-worker who invited my stepmom to church, our family found our way back to church (my dad had been a pastor prior to my mother’s death), and life began to seem more normal than it had in months. We settled into a new house big enough for a family of eight, we had a dad and a mom at home with us, and we were back in church. It was the new start of what is still a wonderful blended family.
I believe “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Even the tragedies, the sadness, the good times, and happiest of times. The key is realizing they “work together,” not independently. That’s why I believe no single event defines a person.
Here are a few things I have learned from life’s events and how they have not only built who I am, but how they have helped to determine the purposes in my life:
• I am resilient. God has given us all the ability to bounce back from difficult circumstances. Some people may need counseling or other outside assistance, and that’s OK. Over the years I have gone to counseling and studied the stages and psychology of grief. But by the grace of God I have overcome. I am “more than a conqueror through Him who loves me.” Romans 8:3
• No person or event can ruin me because the Lord is my Helper, my Light, and my Salvation. My trust and hope are in Him. Hebrews 13:5-6
• In light of eternity, the troubles I’ve experienced on earth are momentary. The grief, physical pain, or emotional pain may last longer than I would ever want, but it is still just a minute compared to the joy I experience forever. 2 Corinthians 4:17
• I have chosen to not be a victim of my circumstances. In the past, I would use my mother’s death or some illness to get my way or make someone else feel bad about themselves, but that was selfish and immature. Instead, I can use my past difficulties to bring comfort and help to others. 2 Corinthians 1:4
• I’m not alone. There is a world full of hurting people, some who have gone through unspeakable events. While comparisons aren’t always healthy, it’s good to remember that we are better off than others, and then to take action to help those people who are in need. Deuteronomy 14:29
• My problems can bring me closer to God or drive me away from Him. It’s truly all about our perspective on God. Do I see Him as a harsh, overbearing Father, or as a loving, sovereign, and righteous Father? Hebrews 12:18-24
• God has plans for my future and gives me hope. Jeremiah 29:11
I don’t understand why we all go through sorrows and hard times, but the older I get and the more I study God’s Word, I think I’ve come to understand what my response should be: everything God allows could bring me closer to Him if I choose to let it. I believe that is the whole purpose of life—to love God and bring Him glory, 1 Corinthians 10:31. The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks the question: “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” You won’t find that phrase specifically in Scripture, but the heart of it is all throughout the Bible. My purpose for being put on this earth—your purpose for being put on this earth—is to “glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.”
Don’t let life’s troubles skew your perspective. Eternity is waiting. In the meantime, let’s keep our focus on the God of creation Who loves us so much that He gave His only Son to die for us. If He would do that, what other good thing would He possibly withhold from those who choose to believe in Him?
“Highlands” by United; lyrics and music by Joel Houston and Benjamin Hastings.
I will praise You on the mountain
And I will praise You when the mountain’s in my way
You’re the summit where my feet are
So I will praise You in the valleys all the same
No less God within the shadows
No less faithful when the night leads me astray
You’re the heaven where my heart is
In the highlands and the heartache all the same
For more on dealing with life’s challenges, start here:
Good Can Come When You Live in the Shadow
A Modern Day Esther: Finding My Voice Through a Hero in the Bible
5 Ways Blended Families Can Be Happy and Healthy
Battered Faith: Holding on to Hope Even When You Struggle
Make the Decision to Be a Woman of Strength
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